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Designs for Strong Minds™ at work with NASA

When Chris Williams, Learning Systems Program Manager for NASA, was looking for a way to integrate the benefits of both types of training, she turned to Dr. Donalee Markus and her company, Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM). "Highly educated people can develop tunnel vision", Williams explains. "They are so good, so brilliant that they don't have to think about creative problem solving until they reach a crisis. Donalee opens up people's ability to look at how they are thinking".

On the surface, DSM's game-like exercises may seem similar to other "thinking-outside-the-box" creativity problems, but dig deeper and the exercises' step-by-step progressive difficulty and rehearsal opportunities will closely resemble the more expensive scenario-based programs. Participants quickly shift from looking for a single right answer to discovering how their perception of a problem can influence the information they gather and affect which course of action they follow.

As Williams noted, experts may think so fast that they are unaware of their own decision-making and/or problem solving processes. They may end up micromanaging each and every crisis because it seems easier to do something themselves than to try to explain it to someone else. They may be unfairly labeled as "controlling personalities" when the real difficulty lies elsewhere. "Our population is very deep into each discipline, so it can be hard to communicate effectively between departments", Williams explains. "Instead of assuming everyone will understand where they are coming from, employees who have been through the [DSM] course will naturally begin to explain how they came to their conclusion. This opens up a whole different dialogue".

The practice of verbalizing one's thought processes produces three significant benefits:

• The opportunity to self-evaluate one's logic
• Better communication of the project's goal
• Clearer understanding of how each team member contributes to the solution

Team leaders who can clearly communicate their intentions find redundancy reduced and effectiveness improved. According to Williams, employees at NASA who completed the DSM program are more thoughtful, more centered and seem to be better able to hold and store more information without getting frazzled.

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates